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Iwamura Heads to DL; Cantu Called Back Up

Both Bay Area newspapers are reporting that an injury sustained last night by Rays 3B Akinori Iwamura was serious enough to warrant a trip to the DL, and he will head to the shelf for at least 15 days.

RAYS Roster Move
On DL: 3B Akinori Iwamura
Called Up: IF Jorge
The loss of Iwamura, who strained his right oblique muscle in last night's game, will be a big one for the Rays. He was one of the team's best hitters, ranking second in OPS among players with more than 33 at bats. He had displayed excellent defense at third base through the first three weeks, displaying quick instincts and reflexes that were a boon to the Rays' beleaguered pitching staff. Many a sharp ground ball had already gone to die in Iwamura's glove so far this season. But that wasn't even the best part of his game. He looked like he didn't miss a beat from his production in Japan thus far in the season, hitting .339/.479/.482 in 71 plate appearances. But more than his ability to hit, he showed a penchant for excellent plate discipline, walking 15 times to only 10 strikeouts, and extending counts to put himself routinely in the best possible scenarios, despite just one home run.

The Rays are unsure exactly how long Iwamura's injury will sideline him, although the early prognosis is that it may keep him out for longer than the two week DL period. Anywhere up to two months has been speculated, however no definite timetable has been put forth.

Meanwhile, being called up to take Iwamura's place is the disgruntled Jorge Cantu. Cantu, if you remember, was enraged about being sent down to the minor leagues on the final day of spring training in favor of Brendan Harris. He repeatedly made assertions about "not being a minor league player" and demanding a trade. He even threatened not to report to the Bulls before he changed course on that. The alignment of the infield gets even more fluid with the staple in Iwamura out of the lineup, though the Tampa Tribune reports that he will be used mainly off of the bench in his current stint with the team. Cantu did play parts of seven games at first with the Bulls, though he was primarily a designated hitter that started at second base and third base in two and one game(s), respectively. He was hitting .267/.317/.360 for the Bulls prior to his promotion this afternoon.

It is unclear how much permanency Cantu's latest stint with the Rays will have to it, with Greg Norton due to come off the DL in a week or two, however the 2005 team MVP struggled last year with the Rays in a stint that resulted in his original demotion to Durham prior to this year. He set the team record for RBIs with 117 in 2005 and hit .286/.311/.497 that year, but injured his foot early in 2006 and posted a sub-.700 OPS subsequent to his return last year. Aside from his offensive struggles, his defense at second base has been much maligned, and the organization's usage of him at first in Durham seems to mean that using Cantu in the '4' hole simply is no longer a viable option.

Little remains known about Iwamura's injury at the moment, but stay with DRaysBay for any updates on an obviously big blow to the team.

Aki to DL, Cantu to return [St. Petersburg Times]
Iwamura To DL; Cantu Recalled [Tampa Tribune]
Rays place Iwamura on DL, recall Cantu []

[editor's note, by Patrick L. Kennedy] Hat tip to Elgrandeplatano for being the first to report the news with his diary. I appreciate his work, and I hope that bumping this story up as the main one on this piece won't be a bother.